Monday, May 07, 2007

Screw You Poor Defendants!

Amendment VI; U.S. Constitution:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

In 2003, Georgia created a state-wide public defender system because the old county run system was so horrid it repeatedly lost constitutional challenges. Now in 2008, our esteemed legislators choose to slash the already paltry $35.4 million public defense budget by $2 million.

We increase our overall budget by $1.5 billion yet continue to shortchange the criminal justice system. A decision which could once again lead us down the road to ongoing cost from more overturned verdicts.

The federal constitution is quite clear on this issue. Criminal trials are matters for the states and the states are required to provide an adequate defense to those requiring the assistance. No ifs, ands or buts. When will the idiots get it through their heads that an ounce of prevention now will prevent monstrous cost headaches later?


Sara said...

the states are required to provide an adequate defense to those requiring the assistance. No ifs, ands or buts.


That's true theoretically of course, but practically speaking a lot of states shortchange their indigent defendants even more than Georgia. In Alabama, for example, in all but the tiny handful of circuits with actual public defender programs, the state provides indigent criminal defendants with a court-appointed attorney who is paid $20 per hour for out-of-court work with a cap of 50 hours, and then $40 per hour for work in court. As a result, it is exceedingly difficult to find qualified criminal defense attorneys willing to provide adequate investigation and representation for the paltry sums the state will pay them. Those who accept the appointments have a strong incentive to minimize their preparation time, even though in a capital case the out-of-court legwork of investigating and hiring experts and such will vastly exceed the time spent in court.

I guess this is why y'all say we'll always have Alabama to make us look good.

But the fact is that many states severely underfund their programs to provide a defense for indigent criminal defendants even though they are required to do so constitutionally and under Gideon v. Wainwright. They don't care, and they get away with it. And we wonder why these people make so many ineffective assistance of counsel claims--and why the courts have a strong incentive to overlook a lot of ineffective assistance of counsel by criminal defense attorneys who accept such cases with no financial incentive to provide the level of defense that the accused deserves.

griftdrift said...

Yeah. That's kinda the point. They keep trying to save a few dollars now ignoring the consequences of the long run.

Amy Morton said...

Grift, you said it all and said it well. The only people who have less political clout than poor people are poor people who are criminal defendants.